Original author(s)Bob Amstadt, Eric Youngdale
Developer(s)Wine authors[1]
Initial release4 July 1993; 29 years ago (1993-07-04)
Stable release
7.0.1[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 8 November 2022
Written inC
Operating system
PlatformIA-32, x86-64, ARM
Available inMultilingual
TypeCompatibility layer

Wine (formerly a recursive backronym for Wine Is Not an Emulator, now just "Wine")[7] is a free and open-source compatibility layer that aims to allow application software and computer games developed for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems. Wine also provides a software library, named Winelib, against which developers can compile Windows applications to help port them to Unix-like systems.[8]

Wine provides its compatibility layer for Windows runtime system (also called runtime environment) which translates Windows API calls into POSIX API calls,[7] recreating the directory structure of Windows, and providing alternative implementations of Windows system libraries,[9] system services through wineserver[10] and various other components (such as Internet Explorer, the Windows Registry Editor,[11] and msiexec[12]). Wine is predominantly written using black-box testing reverse-engineering, to avoid copyright issues.[13]

The selection of "Wine is Not an Emulator" as the name of the Wine Project was the result of a naming discussion in August 1993[14] and credited to David Niemi. There is some confusion caused by an early FAQ using Windows Emulator and other invalid sources that appear after the Wine Project name being set. No code emulation or virtualization occurs when running a Windows application under Wine.[15] "Emulation" usually would refer to execution of compiled code intended for one processor (such as x86) by interpreting/recompiling software running on a different processor (such as PowerPC). While the name sometimes appears in the forms WINE and wine, the project developers have agreed to standardize on the form Wine.[16]

Wine is primarily developed for Linux and macOS,[17] and there are, as of July 2020, well-maintained packages available for both platforms.[18]

In a 2007 survey by of 38,500 Linux desktop users, 31.5% of respondents reported using Wine to run Windows applications.[19] This plurality was larger than all x86 virtualization programs combined, as well as larger than the 27.9% who reported not running Windows applications.[20]


WINE project.png

Bob Amstadt, the initial project leader, and Eric Youngdale started the Wine project in 1993 as a way to run Windows applications on Linux. It was inspired by two Sun Microsystems' products, the Wabi for the Solaris operating system, and the Public Windows Initiative,[21] which was an attempt to get the Windows API fully reimplemented in the public domain as an ISO standard but rejected due to pressure from Microsoft in 1996.[22] Wine originally targeted 16-bit applications for Windows 3.x, but as of 2010 focuses on 32-bit and 64-bit versions which have become the standard on newer operating systems. The project originated in discussions on Usenet in comp.os.linux in June 1993.[23] Alexandre Julliard has led the project since 1994.

The project has proven time-consuming and difficult for the developers, mostly because of incomplete and incorrect documentation of the Windows API. While Microsoft extensively documents most Win32 functions, some areas such as file formats and protocols have no publicly available specification from Microsoft, and Windows also includes undocumented low-level functions, undocumented behavior and obscure bugs that Wine must duplicate precisely in order to allow some applications to work properly.[24] Consequently, the Wine team has reverse-engineered many function calls and file formats in such areas as thunking.[citation needed]

The Wine project originally released Wine under the same MIT License as the X Window System, but owing to concern about proprietary versions of Wine not contributing their changes back to the core project,[25] work as of March 2002 has used the LGPL for its licensing.[26]

Wine officially entered beta with version 0.9 on 25 October 2005.[27] Version 1.0 was released on 17 June 2008,[28] after 15 years of development. Version 1.2 was released on 16 July 2010,[29] version 1.4 on 7 March 2012,[30] version 1.6 on 18 July 2013[31] and version 1.8 on 19 December 2015.[32] Development versions are released roughly every two weeks.

Wine-staging is an independently maintained set of aggressive patches not deemed ready by WineHQ developers for merging into the Wine repository, but still considered useful by the wine-compholio fork. It mainly covers experimental functions and bug fixes. Since January 2017, patches in wine-staging begins to be actively merged into the WineHQ upstream as wine-compholio transferred the project to Alistair Leslie-Hughes, a key WineHQ developer.[33]

Corporate sponsorship

The main corporate sponsor of Wine is CodeWeavers, which employs Julliard and many other Wine developers to work on Wine and on CrossOver, CodeWeavers' supported version of Wine. CrossOver includes some application-specific tweaks not considered suitable for the upstream version, as well as some additional proprietary components.[34]

The involvement of Corel for a time assisted the project, chiefly by employing Julliard and others to work on it. Corel had an interest in porting WordPerfect Office, its office suite, to Linux (especially Corel Linux). Corel later cancelled all Linux-related projects after Microsoft made major investments in Corel, stopping their Wine effort.[35]

Other corporate sponsors include Google, which hired CodeWeavers to fix Wine so Picasa ran well enough to be ported directly to Linux using the same binary as on Windows; Google later paid for improvements to Wine's support for Adobe Photoshop CS2. Wine is also a regular beneficiary of Google's Summer of Code program.[36][37]


The goal of Wine is to implement the Windows APIs fully or partially that are required by programs that the users of Wine wish to run on top of a Unix-like system.

Basic architecture

The programming interface of Microsoft Windows consists largely of dynamic-link libraries (DLLs). These contain a huge number of wrapper sub-routines for the system calls of the kernel, the NTOS kernel-mode program (ntoskrnl.exe). A typical Windows program calls some Windows DLLs, which in turn calls user-mode gdi/user32 libraries, which in turn uses the kernel32.dll (win32 subsystem) responsible for dealing with the kernel through system calls. The system-call layer is considered private to Microsoft programmers as documentation is not publicly available, and published interfaces all rely on subsystems running on top of the kernel. Besides these, there are a number of programming interfaces implemented as services that run as separate processes. Applications communicate with user-mode services through RPCs.[38]

Wine implements the Windows application binary interface (ABI) entirely in user space, rather than as a kernel module. Wine mostly mirrors the hierarchy, with services normally provided by the kernel in Windows[39] instead provided by a daemon known as the wineserver, whose task is to implement basic Windows functionality, as well as integration with the X Window System, and translation of signals into native Windows exceptions. Although Wineserver implements some aspects of the Windows kernel, it is not possible to use native Windows drivers with it, due to Wine's underlying architecture.[38]

Libraries and applications

Wine allows for loading both Windows DLLs and Unix shared objects for its Windows programs. Its built-in implementation of the most basic Windows DLLs, namely NTDLL, KERNEL32, GDI32, and USER32, uses the shared object method because they must use functions in the host operating system as well. Higher-level libraries, such as WineD3D, are free to use the DLL format. In many cases users can choose to load a DLL from Windows instead of the one implemented by Wine. Doing so can provide functionalities not yet implemented by Wine, but may also cause malfunctions if it relies on something else not present in Wine.[38]

Wine tracks its state of implementation through automated unit testing done at every git commit.[40]

Graphics and gaming

While most office software does not make use of complex GPU-accelerated graphics APIs, computer games do. To run these games properly, Wine would have to forward the drawing instructions to the host OS, and even translate them to something the host can understand.

DirectX is a collection of Microsoft APIs for rendering, audio and input. As of 2019, Wine 4.0 contains a DirectX 12 implementation for Vulkan API, and DirectX 11.2 for OpenGL.[41] Wine 4.0 also allows Wine to run Vulkan applications by handing draw commands to the host OS, or in the case of macOS, by translating them into the Metal API by MoltenVK.[41]

As of February 2019, Wine 4.3 uses the FAudio library (and Wine 4.13 included a fix for it) to implement the XAudio2 audio API (and more).[42][43]
XInput and Raw Input
Wine, since 4.0 (2019), supports game controllers through its builtin implementations of these libraries. They are built as Unix shared objects as they need to access the controller interfaces of the underlying OS, specifically through SDL.[41]
Wine 4.0 supports Direct2D 1.2.[41]


Much of Wine's DirectX effort goes into building WineD3D, a translation layer from Direct3D and DirectDraw API calls into OpenGL. As of 2019, this component supports up to DirectX 11.[41] As of 12 December 2016, Wine is good enough to run Overwatch with D3D11.[44] Besides being used in Wine, WineD3D DLLs have also been used on Windows itself, allowing for older GPUs to run games using newer DirectX versions and for old DDraw-based games to render correctly.[45]

Some work is ongoing to move the Direct3D backend to Vulkan API. Direct3D 12 support in 4.0 is provided by a "vkd3d" subproject,[41] and WineD3D has in 2019 been experimentally ported to use the Vulkan API.[46] Another implementation, DXVK, translates Direct3D 9, 10, and 11 calls using Vulkan as well and is a separate project.[47]

Wine, when patched, can alternatively run Direct3D 9 API commands directly via a free and open-source Gallium3D State Tracker (aka Gallium3D GPU driver) without translation into OpenGL API calls. In this case, the Gallium3D layer allows a direct pass-through of DX9 drawing commands which results in performance improvements of up to a factor of 2.[48] As of 2020, the project is named Gallium.Nine. It is available now as a separate standalone package and no longer needs a patched Wine version.[49]

User interface

Wine is usually invoked from the command-line interpreter: wine program.exe.[50]


A screenshot showing how Wine can be configured to mimic different versions of Windows, going as far back as Windows 2.0 in the 32-bit version (64-bit Wine supports only 64-bit versions of Windows)
A screenshot showing how Wine can be configured to mimic different versions of Windows, going as far back as Windows 2.0 in the 32-bit version (64-bit Wine supports only 64-bit versions of Windows)

There is the utility winecfg that starts a graphical user interface with controls for adjusting basic options.[51] It is a GUI configuration utility included with Wine. Winecfg makes configuring Wine easier by making it unnecessary to edit the registry directly, although, if needed, this can be done with the included registry editor (similar to Windows regedit).

Third-party applications


Some applications require more tweaking than simply installing the application in order to work properly, such as manually configuring Wine to use certain Windows DLLs. The Wine project does not integrate such workarounds into the Wine codebase, instead preferring to focus solely on improving Wine's implementation of the Windows API. While this approach focuses Wine development on long-term compatibility, it makes it difficult for users to run applications that require workarounds. Consequently, many third-party applications have been created to ease the use of those applications that do not work out of the box within Wine itself. The Wine wiki maintains a page of current and obsolete third-party applications.[52]


App compatibility progress over time, according to Wine AppDB test results. .mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  Software works flawlessly   Software works flawlessly after configuration   Minor problems with the software   Major problems with the software   Completely non-functional software
App compatibility progress over time, according to Wine AppDB test results.
  Software works flawlessly
  Software works flawlessly after configuration
  Minor problems with the software
  Major problems with the software
  Completely non-functional software

The developers of the Direct3D portions of Wine have continued to implement new features such as pixel shaders to increase game support.[64] Wine can also use native DLLs directly, thus increasing functionality, but then a license for Windows is needed unless the DLLs were distributed with the application itself.

Wine also includes its own open-source implementations of several Windows programs, such as Notepad, WordPad, Control Panel, Internet Explorer, and Windows Explorer.[65]

The Wine Application Database (AppDB) is a community-maintained on-line database about which Windows programs works with Wine and how well they work.

Backward compatibility

Wine ensures good backward compatibility with legacy Windows applications, including those written for Windows 3.1x.[66] Wine can mimic different Windows versions required for some programs, going as far back as Windows version 2.0.[67] However, Windows 1.x and Windows 2.x support was removed from Wine development version 1.3.12. If DOSBox is installed on the system[citation needed] (see below on MS-DOS), Wine development version 1.3.12 and later nevertheless show the "Windows 2.0" option for the Windows version to mimic, but Wine still will not run most Windows 2.0 programs because MS-DOS and Windows functions are not currently integrated.

Backward compatibility in Wine is generally superior to that of Windows, as newer versions of Windows can force users to upgrade legacy Windows applications, and may break abandoned software forever as there is nobody adjusting the program for the changes in the operating system. In many cases, Wine can offer better legacy support than newer versions of Windows with "Compatibility Mode". Wine can run 16-bit Windows programs (Win16) on a 64-bit operating system, which uses an x86-64 (64-bit) CPU,[68] a functionality not found in 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.[69][70] WineVDM allows 16-bit Windows applications to run on 64-bit versions of Windows.[71]

Wine partially supports Windows console applications, and the user can choose which backend to use to manage the console (choices include raw streams, curses, and user32).[72] When using the raw streams or curses backends, Windows applications will run in a Unix terminal.

64-bit applications

Preliminary support for 64-bit Windows applications was added to Wine 1.1.10, in December 2008.[73] As of April 2019, the support is considered stable. The two versions of Wine are built separately, and as a result only building wine64 produces an environment only capable of running x86-64 applications.[74]

As of April 2019, Wine has stable support for a WoW64 build, which allows both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications to run inside the same Wine instance. To perform such a build, one must first build the 64-bit version, and then build the 32-bit version referencing the 64-bit version. Just like Microsoft's WoW64, the 32-bit build process will add parts necessary for handling 32-bit programs to the 64-bit build.[74] This functionality is seen from at least 2010.[75]


Early versions of Microsoft Windows run on top of MS-DOS, and Windows programs may depend on MS-DOS programs to be usable. Wine does not have good support for MS-DOS, but starting with development version 1.3.12, Wine tries running MS-DOS programs in DOSBox if DOSBox is available on the system.[76] However, due to a bug, current versions[needs update] of Wine incorrectly identify Windows 1.x and Windows 2.x programs as MS-DOS programs, attempting to run them in DOSBox (which does not work).[77]


Wine provides Winelib, which allows its shared-object implementations of the Windows API to be used as actual libraries for a Unix program. This allows for Windows code to be built into native Unix executables. Since October 2010, Winelib also works on the ARM platform.[78]

Non-x86 architectures

Support for Solaris SPARC was dropped in version 1.5.26.

ARM, Windows CE, and Windows RT

Wine provides some support for ARM (as well as ARM64/AArch64) processors and the Windows flavors that run on it. As of April 2019, Wine can run ARM/Win32 applications intended for unlocked Windows RT devices (but not Windows RT programs). Windows CE support (either x86 or ARM) is missing,[79] but an unofficial, pre-alpha proof-of-concept version called WineCE allows for some support.[80]

Wine for Android

WINE Solitaire running on Android
WINE Solitaire running on Android

On 3 February 2013 at the FOSDEM talk in Brussels, Alexandre Julliard demonstrated an early demo of Wine running on Google's Android operating system.[81]

Experimental builds of WINE for Android (x86 and ARM) were released in late 2017. It has been routinely updated by the official developers ever since.[4] The default builds do not implement cross-architecture emulation via QEMU, and as a result ARM versions will only run ARM applications that use the Win32 API.[82]

Microsoft applications

Wine, by default, uses specialized Windows builds of Gecko and Mono to substitute for Microsoft's Internet Explorer and .NET Framework. Wine has built-in implementations of JScript and VBScript. It is possible to download and run Microsoft's installers for those programs through winetricks or manually.

Wine is not known to have good support for most versions of Internet Explorer (IE). Of all the reasonably recent versions, Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP is the only version that reports a usable rating on Wine's AppDB, out-of-the-box.[83] However Google Chrome gets a gold rating (as of Wine 5.5-staging),[84] and Microsoft's IE replacement web browser Edge, is known to be based on that browser (after switching from Microsoft's own rendering engine[85]). Winetricks offer auto-installation for Internet Explorer 6 through 8, so these versions can be reasonably expected to work with its built-in workarounds.

An alternative for installing Internet Explorer directly is to use the now-defunct IEs4Linux. It is not compatible with the latest versions of Wine,[86] and the development of IEs4Linux is inactive.

Other versions of Wine

The core Wine development aims at a correct implementation of the Windows API as a whole and has sometimes lagged in some areas of compatibility with certain applications. Direct3D, for example, remained unimplemented until 1998,[87] although newer releases have had an increasingly complete implementation.[88]


Main article: CrossOver (software)

CodeWeavers markets CrossOver specifically for running Microsoft Office and other major Windows applications, including some games. CodeWeavers employs Alexandre Julliard to work on Wine and contributes most of its code to the Wine project under the LGPL. CodeWeavers also released a new version called CrossOver Mac for Intel-based Apple Macintosh computers on 10 January 2007.[89]

As of 2012, CrossOver includes the functionality of both the CrossOver Games and CrossOver Pro lines therefore CrossOver Games and CrossOver Pro are no longer available as single products.[90]

CrossOver Games was optimized for running Windows video games. Unlike CrossOver, it didn't focus on providing the most stable version of Wine. Instead, experimental features are provided to support newer games.[91]


Main article: WINE@Etersoft

The Russian company Etersoft has been developing a proprietary version of Wine since 2006. WINE@Etersoft supports popular Russian applications (for example, 1C:Enterprise by 1C Company).[92]


Main article: Proton (software)

On 21 August 2018, Valve announced a new variation of Wine, named Proton, designed to integrate with the Linux version of the company's Steam software (including Steam installations built into their Linux-based SteamOS operating system and Steam Machine computers).[93] Valve's goal for Proton is to enable Steam users on Linux to play games which lack a native Linux port (particularly back-catalog games), and ultimately, through integration with Steam as well as improvements to game support relative to mainline Wine, to give users "the same simple plug-and-play experience" that they would get if they were playing the game natively on Linux.[93] Proton entered public beta immediately upon being announced.[93]

Valve had already been collaborating with CodeWeavers since 2016 to develop improvements to Wine's gaming performance, some of which have been merged to the upstream Wine project.[93] Some of the specific improvements incorporated into Proton include Vulkan-based Direct3D 9, 10, 11, and 12 implementations via vkd3d,[94] DXVK,[95] and D9VK[96] multi-threaded performance improvements via esync,[97] improved handling of fullscreen games, and better automatic game controller hardware support.[93]

Proton is fully open-source and available via GitHub.[98]

Other projects using Wine source code

Other projects using Wine source code include:



The Wine project has received a number of technical and philosophical complaints and concerns over the years.


Because of Wine's ability to run Windows binary code, concerns have been raised over native Windows viruses and malware affecting Unix-like operating systems[113] as Wine can run limited malware made for Windows. A 2018 security analysis found that 5 out of 30 malware samples were able to successfully run through Wine, a relatively low rate that nevertheless posed a security risk.[114] For this reason the developers of Wine recommend never running it as the superuser.[115] Malware research software such as ZeroWine[116] runs Wine on Linux in a virtual machine, to keep the malware completely isolated from the host system. An alternative to improve the security without the performance cost of using a virtual machine, is to run Wine in an LXC container, as Anbox software is doing by default with Android.

Another security concern is when the implemented specifications are ill-designed and allow for security compromise. Because Wine implements these specifications, it will likely also implement any security vulnerabilities they contain. One instance of this problem was the 2006 Windows Metafile vulnerability, which saw Wine implementing the vulnerable SETABORTPROC escape.[117][118]

Wine vs. native Unix applications

A common concern about Wine is that its existence means that vendors are less likely to write native Linux, macOS, and BSD applications. As an example of this, it is worth considering IBM's 1994 operating system, OS/2 Warp.[original research?] An article describes the weaknesses of OS/2 which killed it, the first one being:

OS/2 offered excellent compatibility with DOS and Windows 3.1 applications. No, this is not an error. Many application vendors argued that by developing a DOS or Windows app, they would reach the OS/2 market in addition to DOS/Windows markets and they didn't develop native OS/2 applications.[119]

However, OS/2 had many problems with end user acceptance. Perhaps the most serious was that most computers sold already came with DOS and Windows, and many people didn't bother to evaluate OS/2 on its merits due to already having an operating system. "Bundling" of DOS and Windows and the chilling effect this had on the operating system market frequently came up in United States v. Microsoft Corporation.

The Wine project itself responds to the specific complaint of "encouraging" the continued development for the Windows API on one of its wiki pages:

For most people there remain a handful of programs locking them in to Windows. It's obvious there will never be a Microsoft Office ported to Linux, however older versions of programs like TurboTax won't be ported either. Similarly, there are tens of thousands of games and internal corporate applications which will never be ported. If you want to use Linux and rely on any legacy Windows application, something like Wine is essential... Wine makes Linux more useful and allows for millions of users to switch who couldn't otherwise. This greatly raises Linux marketshare, drawing more commercial and community developers to Linux.[120]

Also, the Wine Wiki page claims that Wine can help break the chicken-and-egg problem for Linux on the desktop:[121]

This brings us to the chicken and egg issue of Linux on the desktop. Until Linux can provide equivalents for the above applications, its market share on the desktop will stagnate. But until the market share of Linux on the desktop rises, no vendor will develop applications for Linux. How does one break this vicious circle?

Again, Wine can provide an answer. By letting users reuse the Windows applications they have invested time and money in, Wine dramatically lowers the barrier that prevents users from switching to Linux. This then makes it possible for Linux to take off on the desktop, which increases its market share in that segment. In turn, this makes it viable for companies to produce Linux versions of their applications, and for new products to come out just for the Linux market. This reasoning could be dismissed easily if Wine was only capable of running Solitaire. However, now it can run Microsoft Office, multimedia applications such as QuickTime and Windows Media Player, and even games such as Max Payne or Unreal Tournament 3. Almost any other complex application can be made to run well given a bit of time. And each time that work is done to add one application to this list, many other applications benefit from this work and become usable too.

Have a look at our Application Database to get an idea on what can be run under Wine.

The use of Wine for gaming has proved specifically controversial in the Linux community, as some feel it is preventing, or at least hindering, the further growth of native Linux gaming on the platform.[122][123]


Until 2020, Microsoft had not made any public statements about Wine. However, the Windows Update software will block updates to Microsoft applications running in Wine. On 16 February 2005, Ivan Leo Puoti discovered that Microsoft had started checking the Windows Registry for the Wine configuration key and would block the Windows Update for any component.[124] As Puoti noted: "It's also the first time Microsoft acknowledges the existence of Wine."

In January 2020, Microsoft cited Wine as a positive consequence of being able to reimplement APIs, in its amicus curiae brief for Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc.[125]

See also


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Further reading